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The 1979 season produced some of the most exciting cricket in the long history of the game. To my mind, foremost were the feats of Essex and Somerset in carrying off the four major titles. Neither county had previously won any major competition, although in recent years both had become serious challengers.
Then there was the wonderful effort by India who, when facing a target of 438 in the last of their four Tests, came within 9 runs with two wickets in hand of achieving a sensational victory at The Oval. Although India did not succeed, there was a personal honour for Sunil Gavaskar. For more than eight hours he batted faultlessly for his 221 and left no doubt in my mind that he is now the No. 1 opening batsman in the world.
Earlier in the season, West Indies again proved supreme in the Prudential World Cup, from which India were eliminated in the preliminary rounds. Last year the World Cup grossed £359,700, of which just over half - £180,000 - came from the two matches at Lord's. No wonder the International Cricket Conference have agreed to stage another World Cup in England in 1983 and have planned to make the competition a four-yearly event.
Brearley Retained England Captaincy
Despite his most moderate performances with the bat, Brearley remained the England captain. Before he took the England side on their visit to Australia, Brearley had led his country in 23 Tests, of which fourteen were won, eight drawn and only one lost. That was to Australia at Melbourne when the series was won by five to one. As a tactician in the field and a superb slip catcher Brearley cannot be faulted. His men have given him wholehearted support and, moreover, he has been their guide, philosopher and friend in financial matters.
Botham's Fastest Test Double
In the past two years the Somerset all-rounder, Ian Botham, has stamped his name on the Test and county scene. Now he has reached the Test double of 1,000 runs and 100 wickets in only 21 wickets at the age of 23. It is the fastest double in Test history, for he accomplished it in two fewer matches than Vinoo Mankad, the Indian all-rounder whose Test career began late owing to World War Two. Botham captured his 100th wicket in the second Test against India at Lord's, when he had Gavaskar caught in the second innings by Brearley, and his 1,000th run came in the first innings of the fourth Test at The Oval. He required only 3 runs after his magnificent 137 at Leeds in the previous Test.
Among English cricketers, Maurice Tate previously held the record in 33 appearances. Among other great all-rounders, Sir Garfield Sobers took 48 Tests for his double. Botham is the first to admit that much of his success with the ball has been due to England's wonderful catching. Soon England will be looking for someone to succeed Mike Brearley as captain. It was significant that, on the latest tour to Australia, Botham became one of the team selectors and he might well get the England captaincy. It is argued that he lacks experience of leadership, but I remember Sir Leonard Hutton (Yorkshire) and Peter May (Surrey) playing under N. W. D. Yardley and Stuart Surridge respectively. In fact, Hutton was never officially captain of Yorkshire.
The month of May last year will be remembered as one of the wettest on record. Of 37 Championship matches, only three were brought to a definite conclusion. There was another bad patch in early June, with the result that altogether in ten Championship matches not a ball was bowled, and in many others little play took place. Consequently, many people raised the question of beginning the season later and going on towards the third or fourth week in September when usually the weather is better. The old argument that there would be a clash with football no longer holds good, as the winter game now begins in early August without seriously affecting cricket attendances. Certainly that thrilling climax to the Oval Test and Somerset's dual success in the Gillette Cup and John Player League on successive days definitely held the public's attention. I hear that it is likely that the season will begin two weeks later than usual and finish one week later in 1981.
England's Promising Youngsters
Writing before England have played even the first of their three Tests against Australia, I have no idea how they fared. But I do know that Alec Bedser and his fellow selectors spent seven hours picking the sixteen men after four months seeing the men in action at home. The value of giving youngsters a chance to prove themselves is reflected in the way Ian Botham seized the chance three years ago. On the most recent tour, Graham Dilley (20) was the only player under 21. He replaced the injury-prone Chris Old, and later Old's Yorkshire opening attack partner, Graham Stevenson, was called to reinforce the England party when Mike Hendrick was forced to return home.
Among a host of promising young talent, Paul Parker of Cambridge University and Sussex is only 23. In 1979 he hit four hundreds and his average rose from 28.58 the previous summer to 44.33. He was the Cricket Writers' Young Cricketer of The Year and winner of two other prizes given by Bonus Bonds - Daily Mail and Commercial Union. He has overtaken in the selectors' minds Chris Tavare (Kent), Bill Athey and Kevin Sharp (Yorkshire) and Mike Gatting (Middlesex), perhaps only for the time being. Also knocking at the door are batsmen Peter Roebuck (Somerset), Richard Williams (Northamptonshire), and Kim Barnett (Derbyshire), who has made a great impression at the age of nineteen. Of the bowlers, there is Tony Pigott (pronounced Pye-got), the Sussex pace man, as well as Hugh Wilson (Surrey) and Jonathan Agnew (Leicestershire). Injury laid low Agnew last season and he has undergone a winter of tree felling to build up his young muscles.
Three Smart Wicket-keepers
Waiting to get their chance behind the stumps should Bob Taylor and David Bairstow, the present favourites become unavailable are Andy Brassington (Gloucestershire), "Jack" Richards (Surrey) and Bruce French (Nottinghamshire), not forgetting Paul Downton (Kent), who interrupted his studies at Exeter University to go on the England tour of Pakistan and New Zealand in 1977-78.
Unfortunately, the current craze for seam bowling offers small encouragement for youngsters to take up spin, but Worcestershire possess one in the Kenyan-born Dipak Patel, who came to England at the age of nine and now is only 21. A genuine all-rounder, he excels in off-spin as do his seniors, Geoff Miller, the Derbyshire captain, and John Emburey (Middlesex).
A glance at the batting and bowling averages indicates the extent to which all the counties, excepting Yorkshire, rely on overseas talent. Although Geoff Boycott came first in batting with an average of 102.53, no other Englishman came halfway near him, the best being Dennis Amiss at 49.17. Recently, South Africa have supplied some of the most attractive stroke-makers in Allan Lamb (Northamptonshire), Ken McEwan (Essex), Clive Rice (Nottinghamshire) and Kepler Wessels (Sussex). While Vivian Richards (Somerset) appears to reserve himself mainly for the big occasion - as in the Prudential Cup final for West Indies and for Somerset in the Gillette Cup final at Lord's - Glenn Turner, the New Zealander, has remained gloriously consistent for Worcestershire. Indeed, he alone claims the distinction of hitting a century against each of the 17 first-class counties, having hit one for the New Zealanders at Worcester. His 109 against Lancashire at Southport at the end of June rounded off this exceptional feat.
Younis Ahmed's Transformation
That Worcestershire finished runners-up in the Schweppes County Championship was not due solely to Turner's splendid work with the bat. As Surrey had dispensed with the services of Younis Ahmed after 10 years at The Oval, Worcestershire found a place for him, and at the age of 31 the Pakistani found a new lease of life. Did Worcestershire remember that in 1975 he hit his highest score, 183 not out, at Worcester? Anyhow, Younis scored 1,539 runs for them last summer and finished second only to Boycott in the first-class batting averages. His 221 not out against Nottinghamshire at Trent Bridge was the highest of his career, but perhaps more important was the way he made his runs. Gone was that stabbing forward prod which he developed at The Oval. Now he went through with his strokes with the full flow of the bat, and he left no doubt about his exceptional talent. Probably the better pitches at Worcester gave him confidence.
His only disappointment was the rejection of the case, by the Industrial Tribunal, which he brought against Surrey for wrongful dismissal, In October, the Pakistan government lifted the suspension of Younis, whom they had barred from Test matches because he went on a tour of South Africa.
Incidentally, Worcestershire, after playing all their Championship home matches for the past seven years at Worcester, introduce a new venue to first-class cricket by playing their match against Lancashire this coming season at Stourport on July 12, 14, 15.
Mike Procter's Great Season
Of the many fine all-rounders on the English scene, the South African Mike Procter, Gloucestershire's captain, stands above them all. In first-class matches he hit 1,241 runs, average 38.78 and took 81 wickets at 18.91 runs each. Mere figures do not indicate his brilliance. After near misses against Warwickshire and Somerset he won the Walter Lawrence Trophy for fastest hundred of the season in 57 minutes against Northamptonshire at Bristol. Like Denis Compton of old, Procter never troubles which bat he uses. Differences in weight, balance or lift present no problems to him, and he carried on throughout the year despite a painful knee that would have laid low many other players. May he carry on for Gloucestershire to give pleasure to so many of his admirers.
Limiting Overseas Players
The preponderance of overseas players in English cricket has led to the Test and County Cricket Board deciding that, from 1982, no more than one shall be allowed to appear for any county in the same match. It was in 1968 that the counties were first allowed to engage one overseas player on immediate registration every three years. Procter was among the first, along with Sir Garfield Sobers (Nottinghamshire), Asif Iqbal (Kent), Barry Richards (Hampshire), and Majid Jahangir Khan (Glamorgan), to mention a few. The innovation proved a great success in bringing about a general levelling of strength among the counties.
After an interval or 57 years Kent won the County Championship in 1970 and again in 1977 (tied) and 1978. Leicestershire and now Essex have become champions for the first time, and Somerset had their double glory at the end of the last season. Yorkshire have preferred to rely solely on their native talent and success has eluded them since 1968. The overseas stars have, in the main, proved a tremendous attraction, and most have shown their colleagues born in the United Kingdom that stodgy methods are scarcely worthwhile.
The old saying "It is not cricket" used to be universal when something shady was done in any walk of life, but in modern times cricket has so often blotted its copybook that one rarely hears the term these days. It certainly applied when Somerset, to ensure their passage to the Benson and Hedges Cup quarter-finals, cut short their match against Worcestershire at Worcester to exactly seventeen balls, including one no ball. It was all over in eighteen minutes, and the Somerset players left the ground fourteen minutes later.
Somerset entered the match with nine points from previous contests, and they had the faster rate of taking wickets than either of their challengers in Group A, Worcestershire and Glamorgan, both with six points. Somerset risked nothing by declaring after one over and allowing Worcestershire no chance to improve their wicket-taking rate. Somerset were within the law governing the competition - it has since been changed - but they showed no consideration to their sponsors of the spectators. Brian Rose, the Somerset captain, was condemned in the cricket world for his action, although I understand it was planned by some members of his team.
Donald Carr, secretary of the TCCB said: "Somerset's action is totally contrary to the spirit of the competition." Colin Atkinson, the Somerset president and a former captain of the county tried unsuccessfully to have the match replayed. Within eight days, the TCCB, at an emergency meeting, banned Somerset for their "indefensible" Cup declaration, and their place was given to Glamorgan, who played and lost to Derbyshire at Cardiff.
An aluminium bat has been produced in Australia under the direction of Australian express bowler Dennis Lillee, who thought of the idea when bats at his cricket coaching centre continually splintered. Instead of making the pleasant noise one associates when the willow strikes the ball, there is a much louder noise from the metal one. The manufacturers are trying to solve this problem, and they also have to find a substance, such as foam, cork or polystyrene - to fill the inside. For the purpose of practice at the nets, it is durable and would be much cheaper to produce than the willow type. It could not be used in any kind of match, because the new Laws which have just come into force with the beginning of this English season state that the blade of the bat shall be made of wood.
The rising cost of the cricket ball - in England in 1979 the top-grade varied from £16.50 to over £20 each - is causing much concern. There are 15,000 to 20,000 cricket clubs in the United Kingdom. In Australia, the Kookaburra ball costs £12, and in India and Pakistan their Grade A balls range from £6 to £8 each. There are two main manufacturers in England - The Wisden-Duke-Stuart Surridge firm called Tonbridge Sports Industries at Penhurst, and Alfred Reader, of Teston, near Maidstone. With cash from the Cricket Council and the British Sports and Allied Industries, a British Standards Institution team of scientists has been working out a new specification for cricket balls, taking into account size, construction, stitching and the seam of different grades of ball.
During the recent season in Australia the authorities reverted to the six-ball over, which means that only in Pakistan is the eight-ball over now in force. The over was originally, from 1744, of four balls. In England it was changed to five in 1889 and six in 1900. In Australia, the six-ball was introduced in 1887 and the eight-ball over began in 1918. Three years later it was agreed that the eight-ball over be used for all matches in Australia, but for the 1928-29 and 1932-33 Test series with England, the six-ball was used. Since then Australia reverted to eight. Now the Australians reckon the eight-ball over often slowed down the fast bowlers, and under the present scheme there will be more balls bowled per hour, which will keep the game moving and provide a better spectacle.
Recodification of The Laws
For only the fifth time in over 200 years the Laws of Cricket have been rewritten. The new code came into operation on April 1, this year. The earliest known code was drawn up in 1744 by Noblemen and Gentlemen who used the Artillery Ground in London. It was in 1788 that the first MCC code was adopted, and the Club now holds the world copyright. This latest addition tidies up issues since the 1947 revision was published, and gives particular attention to modern trends in the realms of unfair play.
Among the revised laws is one allowing a batsman to be given out on appeal if he wilfully takes longer than two minutes to reach the wicket. Hitherto, it has meant that on appeal by the fielding side they could be awarded the match. Such a case occurred as soon as the Championship was resumed after World War One; at Taunton in May 1919 when Somerset and Sussex tied. The last Sussex batsman, an amateur H. J. Heygate was crippled with rheumatism - a legacy of the war - and it was understood when the innings began that he would not be able to bat. When the ninth wicket fell with the scores level, one of the Somerset players - not J. C. White, the acting captain - appealed on the ground that the two minutes had been exceeded. The umpire, A. E. Street, pulled the stumps and the match was officially recorded as a tie. Umpires now will no longer have to consider whether the batting side are unwilling, or unable, to play. Only the individual will be punished. The new Law will be known as "Timed Out".
Five years ago, Mr S. C. Griffith, now president of MCC, undertook to rewrite the Laws when he retired as the Club's secretary. By merging several inter-linked matters, he has reduced the Laws in number from 47 to 42, but through the incorporation of previously called notes and sub-sections the whole has become lengthier. There are now 13 sections to "unfair play". Short-pitched deliveries and fast high full tosses are specifically termed unfair. Issues of recent seasons, such as the obstruction or distraction of a batsman, damage to the pitch, bowlers wasting time and players showing dissent, are now dealt with.
There was an inclination to ban helmets, especially for fieldsmen, but the possible legal and other repercussions if someone was injured made it inadvisable to do so.
It took Mr Griffith a year before his first draft was delivered to Lord's, and then it went round the cricket world. He was helped by Mr Tom Smith, formerly secretary of the Association of Cricket Umpires, whose members alone submitted 300 suggestions, Mr F. G. Mann, chairman of TCCB, and Mr J. A. Bailey, secretary of MCC also gave considerable assistance.
Alarmed at the growing incidence of bad behaviour by players in all levels of grade cricket - which includes Test players - the New South Wales Cricket Association held a discussion at Cricket House, Sydney, and requested that the following message be printed in a prominent place in each club's annual report. I make no excuse for bringing it forward to wider spheres in the cricket world because the issues raised appertain not solely to Australia, but to most parts of the world where cricket is played. The advent of big prize-money may well be the cause of the spread of excessive bad manners.
It Has To Stop
That is the heading of the NSW message to its members, and here is the context. The game of cricket has long been known to epitomise the highest levels of conduct sportsmanship. It is a competitive game to be played in an atmosphere of comradeship and enjoyed by players, umpires and spectators alike.
Bad behaviour by players is bringing the game into disrepute. It is alienating public support and making it almost impossible to recruit and hold umpires.
The following examples give rise to concern
Players must be capable of exercising self-discipline without the need for club administrators or the Association itself enforcing codes of behaviour. Captains have a special responsibility to exercise control over their players in these matters.
Let it be quite clear - the Association will not hesitate to impose severe penalties on any player reported for bad behaviour in the future.
If you are a player reported by an umpire, then be prepared to watch your team from the sidelines.
The NSWCA believes in the adage "the game is bigger than the player".
So, players, let's get the game back to where it should be.
England v Rest of the World, 1970
Much against my will, it has been decided by the publishers of Wisden to delete from the Records the five unofficial Tests played in England against the Rest of the World in 1970. I would emphasise that ten years ago these matches were broadcast by the BBC and ITV, published by the newspapers throughout Great Britain, and sold to the public as Test Matches as advised by the Test and County Cricket Board. The International Cricket Conference at their meeting at Lord's in 1972 reaffirmed that matches played between England and the Rest of the World in 1970 were not official Tests and should not be included in the Test match records. The two countries which dug their toes in on this issue were Australia and West Indies, although I have always understood that Sir Garfield Sobers, who captained the Test, accepted that office only because the matches would be played as Test matches.
It was only at the last moment that the tour by South Africa to England that year was cancelled when the Cricket Council's hand was forced by Mr James Callaghan, the Home Secretary. In this critical situation sponsors were sought, and discovered in the great brewing firm of Guinness, who, on the understanding that these contests should be accorded the dignity of unofficially Tests, underwrote the five matches to the tune of £20,000 - a big sum in those far-off days. It was Sobers as captain, Freddie Brown as manager and Leslie Ames who chose the Rest teams from the many talented overseas players engaged in county cricket. The cricket played that year by the two teams was some of the finest ever seen in England. It had all the fervour of a Test occasion. Considering how much money all their Test opponents have taken back from England over the years, how interdependent both financially and in other ways, it was strange that they should be so mean and narrow-minded on this unique occasion.
There is no copyright on the term "Test match". The first known use of the words occurred in Australia in W. J. Hammersley's Victorian Cricketer's Guide 1861-62 when referring to five matches played on the first visit of an English team under H. H. Stephenson against Victoria, New South Wales, and Combined Victoria and NSW.
Wrigley's Give £100,000
In recent years cricket has been generously endowed by many sponsors, some of whose names receive almost daily notice through the media. Some do their work almost silently behind the scenes, and one such is the Wrigley Cricket Foundation who have given over £100,000 in the past ten years "to stimulate and encourage an interest in the playing of cricket and the achieving by them of a greater proficiency in the game". Among the activities are coaching courses for boys and girls and the training of coaches, organised regionally and from the headquarters of the National Cricket Association (Lord's); the sponsorship of representative school and youth matches; visual aids such as films; and aid towards financing overseas tours of representative schoolboy and youth teams. There is also The Wrigley Trophy Indoor Six-a-Side Club Cricket Championship played in various sports halls and gymnasia. The semi-finals and final take place at the MCC Indoor School, Lord's, in mid-April.
New Year and Queen's Birthday Honours
Did they know at Buckingham Palace that 1979 was to be Essex's year? In the New Year Honours, Tom Pearce, the former Essex captain and now their President, received the OBE. Greg Chappell, the Australian captain, and Fred Millett (Cheshire), a member of MCC Committee, each received the MBE. In the Queen's Birthday Honours, Philip Snow, who founded the Fiji Cricket Association and captained their team which toured New Zealand in 1948, was awarded the MBE. Mr Snow contributes the review in this edition of Wisden of the tour of the British Isles undertaken by Sri Lanka.